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DMV workers balk at proposed HQ move to Rocky Mount

February 5, 2019

State workers want to park a proposal to move the headquarters of the Division of Motor Vehicles from Raleigh to Rocky Mount.

Lawmakers required the DMV to move from its offices on New Bern Avenue, east of downtown Raleigh, by October 2020 because of safety concerns in that building, including asbestos.

The DMV asked for bids in Wake County and surrounding counties., and the lowest bid received is in a building on North Church Street in Rocky Mount that once housed the headquarters of the Hardee’s fast-food chain – nearly an hour away.

Most of the 600 people who work at the DMV headquarters live in Wake County, according to the State Employees Association of North Carolina. SEANC opposes the move and hosted a forum Monday afternoon for workers to voice their opinions.

Many employees said they cannot afford a 60-mile daily commute.

Nereida Gonzalez, who has worked at DMV headquarters for five years, lives in Wake Forest and said driving to Rocky Mount would take her 90 minutes each way.

“I can’t go. I have a daughter with special needs that someone has to be with her 24 hours,” Gonzalez said. “That means I would have to have someone at the house at 6:30 [a.m.] That’s not going to happen. It’s a long way to go.”

Errico Moore said it’s not logistically possible to drop off her son at school and then make it to work on time an hour away.

“We knew we were going to have to move,” Moore said. “But to go to, well, a couple of counties over, we weren’t expecting that.”

State law requires that DMV recommend the lowest bid.

The Rocky Mount site would cost the state $2.4 million a year to operate, according to state records, while a runner-up site on Ellis Road in Durham would cost $2.6 million a year. Eight other sites that submitted bids would have cost between $3.3 million and $4.4 million a year, records show.

The Council of State, a collection of statewide elected officials including Gov. Roy Cooper, was scheduled to vote on accepting the Rocky Mount bid at its monthly meeting Tuesday morning, but Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the governor asked that the item be removed from the agenda so officials could have more time to discuss the impact of the move.

SEANC senior lobbyist Suzanne Beasley said moving the DMV headquarters to Rocky Mount would “upend about 600 families.”

“They’re going to be faced with driving an extra 120 miles round-trip each day,” Beasley said. “These are already low-paid state employees, so this is going to be an extra 600 miles a week [in] gas [and] wear and tear on their cars.”

Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, who who represents the area where DMV’s main office is located, has vowed to “do everything in my power” to fight the move.

“Moving jobs from one struggling area to another is not legitimate job creation,” Blue said.

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